City of Ithaca officials on Saturday morning identified the fatality in Friday afternoon's tragedy as 27-year-old Amanda Bush. The Simeon's bartender, originally from Genoa, was a young mother with a 14-month-old daughter.
IFD Lt. Tom Basher and Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick speak to journalists on Saturday morning. 14850 Photo.Ithaca Police Department Chief John R. Barber says emergency responders believe Bush was killed on impact when a runaway tractor trailer carrying seven cars slammed into the facade of Simeon's on the Commons, a popular restaurant on the corner of East State Street and North Aurora Street.
The truck driver, identified by officials this morning as Viacheslav Grychanyi, a 37-year-old commercial driver from Spokane, Washington, has been cooperating with police. He has been issued two traffic tickets for operating an over-length vehicle and having an inadequate braking system, and was released from police custody. Chief Barber says a blood sample was taken in accordance with procedure that applies to any commercial vehicle accident.
A corner was sheared off this concrete bollard as the truck grazed it on Friday.Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Mayor Svante Myrick says the City will work with the State of New York to consider what additional measures could be taken to reduce such incidents or limit the damage they could cause. Myrick says a concrete and metal bollard, placed on the sidewalk in front of Simeon's, was damaged as the truck grazed it. "We just can't know how much it would have slowed the truck if it had hit it head on instead of skimming it." The Mayor says it's natural after a tragedy like this to wonder what could be done differently, and the City will be exploring the possibilities.
Chief Barber says such large commercial vehicles don't usually come through downtown Ithaca on City streets, but trucks heading to destinations inside the City are not prohibited. The vehicle, owned by Auto Star Transport of Spokane, was carrying seven cars and was coming to Ithaca to pick up a car in the area. The Chief says the truck driver knew he couldn't stop the vehicle. "He saw there were people working on the Commons, so he tried to make the turn," Barber added.
"If this were 40 minutes later," Mayor Myrick says, "an already tragic scene would have been far worse. Anyone who's been downtown on a Friday at 5 knows there would be dozens of people at the sidewalk tables, dozens more at inside tables."
Nearby businesses were closed on Friday night, with the 100 block of North Aurora Street closed to traffic and pedestrians, and power cut off by NYSEG crews to surrounding buildings. "We've spoken with all of the businesses on this block and they will all be open today," Mayor Myrick says. "All of the businesses on the Commons will be open, as well."
Chief Barber says crews from Paolangeli Contractor brought heavy equipment to the site last night to assist City engineering teams, and used a crane to remove a portion of the building's facade so the truck could be extracted without significant risk of building collapse.
"We have a structural engineer coming in this afternoon to tell us whether the building can be saved, and how to stabilize it," Mayor Myrick says. He told reporters yesterday, "It's a beautiful and historic building, and we hope it can be restored. If it seems the building will come down, though, we will take it down ourselves."
Built in 1871, the Griffin Block building that houses Simeon's contained a candy shop early in the 20th century, followed by a clothing store, and was restored in the 1970s. Named for Simeon Dewitt, who founded Ithaca, Simeon's first opened as a soda shop in 1975, and then evolved into a tavern and a restaurant. It was owned for a little over a decade by Alan Cohen, a former mayor of the City of Ithaca. Just a few years ago, the restaurant expanded into what had been a pizzeria next door, adding an additional dining room and upgraded kitchen space. The second floor has at various times contained a used bookstore, a copy shop, magazine offices, and other businesses.
Myrick says, "This was a horrible day and a tragic day, but the darker the night, the brighter the stars." He commended crews from the Ithaca police and fire departments, local ambulance staff and volunteer responders, and City DPW and building department staff. "They responded with such exemplary professionalism. They ran into situations most of us would run from," he added. The mayor also praised nearby businesses and residents, including Collegetown Bagels and Viva Taqueria, who kept providing food and coffee for responders long into the night.
"It's a very challenging thing for emergency responders to go through this," said Ithaca Fire Department Chief Tom Parsons. "The community rallied around our responders today." Parsons says grief counselors were at the scene last night to talk with emergency personnel and volunteers, as well as area residents, and anyone who would like to reach out for grief counseling can call 211 for support and referrals to local agencies who can help.
IPD public information officer Jamie Williamson says investigators believe "the tractor trailer was traveling westbound on Mitchell Street, merged onto East State Street, and then continued down the hill until colliding with the Simeon's Restaurant building." Witnesses tell us they saw the car carrier passing through Varna on Route 366, and another says the truck seemed to be traveling at about 45 miles per hour as it passed Argos Inn at the foot of the State Street hill just east of the Commons. Williamson asks anyone who observed the collision or the tractor trailer traveling towards the Commons to contact contact IPD via police dispatch at 607-272-3245, the administration line at 607-272-9973, the Crimestoppers Tipline at 607-697-0333, or the anonymous online tip form.
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